The upcoming Gears of Wars 5 will feature blood, guts, guns, explosions, guns, ugly aliens, scowling men and women, guns, gunfire, guns, guns with chainsaws, and guns. What it will not have, however, is tobacco products. Anti-smoking organization Truth Initiative approached ELeague about making Gears 5 smoke-free, according to a Variety report, which in turn worked with Microsoft and The Coalition to remove all references to smoking from the game.
"I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact of smoking," The Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson said in a statement. "It’s always been important for me to not use smoking as a narrative device, which is why we made the conscious choice to avoid highlighting or glorifying smoking in Gears 5 and throughout the Gears of War Universe moving forward."
The change has actually been in the works for months. "This took a lot of time and a lot of good thinking," Turner Sports Digital and ELeague sales strategy and revenue head Seth Ladetsky said. "It’s the right image for ELeague—and the game itself—to project." (Turner's ELeague holds broadcast rights to Gears of War 5.)
I don't think any Gears characters are regular smokers but previous games in the series have featured "occasional" scenes with somebody lighting up, according to the report. So it won't be a major change in Gears 5's tone, but it could nonetheless have a positive impact on real-world smoking reduction efforts: Research shows a correlation between exposure to smoking in entertainment media and increased uptake among younger people, Ladetsky said, and "as you remove these images, it does have an impact."
It might seem silly to sweat the presence of tobacco products while you're skidding through the thick, hot blood of a guy you just chainsawed in half (and in fact there's already a meme to that effect making the rounds), but there's a fairly obvious underlying distinction: Smoking is a real thing that people actually do, and that actually does harm to them. Given that, even if the impact is slight, I'd call this a positive step. (Smoking isn't cool anymore anyway—it really is time to let it go.)
Update: Fergusson commented further on the elimination of smoking and tobacco products from Gears 5 on Twitter.
To be fair, this isn't entirely accurate. I've been against smoking from the beginning and have worked hard to not make it a part of our franchise. Ever notice that the Dizzy concept art for Gears 2 has a cigarette but the actual character in the game doesn't? I stopped it. https://t.co/KahohpMH3AJuly 12, 2019
Simply because I didn't want to glamorize something that is addictive and kill you. Wasn't trying to me any moral police, just reflecting my beliefs after losing friends to lung cancer. If you had the ability to create a world, what would you change?July 12, 2019